As Christmas approaches, I’m reflecting on the fabulous Thanksgiving holiday full of food, family, laughter and love that I had with my family. It was crystal clear to me that times like this are to be cherished. Moments of happiness aren’t to be taken for granted, because in a heartbeat life can permanently change. Accidents, sickness, fires, storms–all can change the trajectory of the best laid plans. So, I’m truly focusing on the things that feel good, people who mean a lot and where I choose to spend my time.
How many times have we thought, “There’s always tomorrow?” Well, sometimes there isn’t.
Mom and Us – Thanksgiving 2018
This is a shot of my Mom, Gwen Hilliard, two of my sisters Gloria and Wendy and my niece Amina as we headed out to dinner at a restaurant for the first time for Thanksgiving. For 20 years, I was the CFO…the Chief Food Officer of our annual Thanksgiving reunion of over 30 people…Whew! My daughter Angelica is now the CFO, after I “let go of the spoon”–LOL. But this year, she had to work, and I wasn’t coming out of retirement to cook! So at the urging of my cousin Adele, I suggested kindly but directly, that we had to try something new. So off we went to Sullivan’s in Baltimore and had a great time.
We cherished every moment of Thanksgiving week. Making ComfortCake with my grand-nieces; Angelica in fact cooking on Friday so the crowd would have leftovers, including her now famous Macaroni and Cheese–(she took my recipe and made it her own). My now-towering nephews eating everything in sight, and my newest 4-month-old grand-nephew stealing all hearts. My Mom would sit with us in the kitchen as we laughed over family stories, debated the latest political situations and I tried my best to learn the Flossing dance (I need a LOT more practice). In sum, we had a blast and Mom didn’t want to miss the fun!
Then, a week after Thanksgiving, my 94-year-old Mom was rushed to the hospital. She has advanced dementia. We weren’t sure what was wrong, but she was slurring her speech and was in pain. Was it a stroke? We were all on high alert, as at her age and frailty, anything could happen.
And that’s what inspired this post. As I paced the floor back in Chicago awaiting word of Mom’s status, the fact that we were all together for Thanksgiving took on intense meaning. It could be my Mom’s last. We had to Cherish The Time.
While I was in Baltimore, I spent time with Mom as her primary caregiver, as Jessie, our beloved caregiver for Mom spent time with her family for the holiday. It was tough work; but I cherished the opportunity to do it. There were times when Mom just loved being hugged, and I loved hugging her. To think that a few days later that opportunity might be gone forever in an instant–it was truly sobering.
All I can share is that please, tell those you love that you love them. Spend TIME with them. It is the one thing that can never be replaced. Time will march on no matter what. Don’t let small things become big things that keep love away. It just isn’t worth it. Forgive and move on to Cherish The Time that you can share.
This year, I’ve lost three close mentees/friends/mentors. Chef Judson Allen, 36. Ken Smikle, 66, Barry Rand, 74. All gone too soon. The blessing that I am most grateful for though, is that I cherished the times with them. Texts, smiles, dinners, emails, hugs. They knew I loved them, and that they were important to my life.
And on December 10, 2018, I lost my beloved Mom. She passed painlessly in her sleep; she had told me several times recently that she wanted to go home and be with my Dad. As I go through moments of deep sadness mixed with moments of joyful remembrance, I am blessed with the knowledge that she truly earned her wings. Her positive spirit touched everyone she encountered. A trailblazing, globe-trotting pioneer, Gwen Hilliard was an educator, entrepreneur and community servant. She raised us to be women of God, women of family, and women who use our gifts. Mom had a long, vibrant, beautiful life, and I am so very grateful that she knew how much I loved her and that I will cherish her always.
Time is important. Cherish It.
See you next week.